If you want to do just one activity that will take approximately 10 minutes of your time and yield the most customers for 0 cost, this is that one thing you should do. Immediately.
Some quick restaurant SEO (search engine optimization) statistics to get our conversation started:
Now to explain...
Local or location-based searches are searches whereby either you entered the location directly into the search parameters (search for "italian restaurant in Boston MA") or you were in a location and Google returned search results based on your GPS coordinates (you were in the town of Boston, MA and ran a search for "italian restaurant") can greatly impact your restaurant's online traffic and foot traffic.
Your location matters any time a person is trying to find a product or service close to where they are or based on its proximity to a location. For example, an Italian restaurant in a certain town, a hair salon in their neighborhood, the nearest locksmith, a plumber that services their area...
For location-relevant businesses these types of searches are the most important queries that you can hope to win. These queries aren't you trying to beat out your nationwide or global position for search engine rankings, but are instead highly local-based and often immediate in their conversion from a query to a phone call or physical customer at your location. In some industries (such as restaurants), this conversion percentage has been found (for smartphone users) to equal 30% immediate conversions and 60% conversions within an hour, and 80% go on to eventually make a conversion (Google study).
30% conversions immediately and 60% conversions within an hour.
These aren't window shoppers, these are people that are immediately converting to become customers of yours.
And guess what they're using to conduct these local searches? Google Maps on iOS (Apple) or Google Search via their Android phone.
And guess where the top results are being pulled from? Your Google My Business information.
This part may be confusing, but Google used to have a service which is still operational called Google Places. You might have created your business listing in this service. It still exists, you can still edit your existing listings, and in fact you can create new listings. But Google Places has been phased out and merged with Google+ functionality in the form of Google My Business.
You might have a page listing and not even known it.
To be perfectly clear, this is not search engine optimization. This is not part of your website, nor does it comprise of making the content in your website more accessible or optimized for search engines to spider. This is entirely about giving Google the best information possible about your business in their "yellow pages" directory, keeping the profile updated and active, and enabling Google to match queries with the best results.
And when the query is a local or location-based search, Google will use this information before using standard search engine results (which is where your restaurant SEO might be a factor).
This is not a small amount of search traffic, as we’ll show later.
Completeness matters! Make sure to keep all of your contact information correct (address, phone numbers, website urls), fill out your hours and description, and above all, make sure you have one or more categories selected! The categories are one of the biggest parts; make sure that you include all categories that match your offering. For example, if you're an Italian restaurant, make sure to select both the "italian restaurant" category as well as the "restaurant" category.
Then make your listing catchy by adding the most gorgeous cover photo that you can, along with 5 or more other photographs to showcase (people often judge exclusively on imagery). As a restaurant, make those images as tantalizing as possible!
Clients of ours surprisingly still question our focus, and insistence, on their participation in Google+. We point them to reasons why their business should be on G+, run through their Google Analytics with them to show them the significant percentage of their traffic that is coming to them from Google searches and explain how this can be increased. But for many of them it comes down to 1) not enough time in the day and 2) why add more "social networking" when they're already busy on Facebook. We think they're looking at it all wrong. But even if they don't use Google+ for the networking aspect, we insist that they at least claim their Google My Business page.
But there is another big reason to take the extra step of setting up your business's Google My Business page, and the image above explains it.
In viewing that page no actions were required. Renew Pilates' information takes up over 50% of the search engine results page. And not only that, but it has almost every action item that, as a small business, you'd want to make accessible to your potential clients/customers.... address, phone number, directions, hours, links to images... it is immediately showing many of your website's capture points or action items before they've even reached your website. And as a restaurant, it will also link to your menu directly through the results page.
On a mobile phone, this information is even more prominent as the example for Sutter Meats, a local butcher shop, illustrates.
All without ever needing to spend extra time by going to your website.
So if that information, and those action items, can so quickly fulfill the primary role of your business's website, doesn't it make sense to think of that listing as your website's "splash" or "landing" page? Ideally your potential customer wouldn't even need to click to your website, and wouldn't consider clicking to a competitor's website.
You'll have accomplished the hardest step to a conversion. So perhaps it's time to up the ante when it comes to your Google My Business page.
Please give our October 2014 case study on Google Local Search a read to see how much traffic this amounted to for a 1-location restaurant in a major town.
In early February 2014 we launched the website for the new local butcher in town, Sutter Meats. What started with a meeting over coffee, and hearing their plan to completely refurbish a storefront and create a nose-to-tail locally sourced butcher shop, culminated in the store opening and us launching their website a week before.
In our first meeting Terry and Susan asked:
Do we need to advertise? Should we take out print ads, or perhaps advertise on the local NPR affiliate or newspaper?
We said no. People will hear about you (it's a small town, a new butcher shop in downtown is pretty noteworthy), and we'll make sure that you rank at the top for all of the keywords and phrases that will lead people to you.
We went into the store their second week open and Terry says: Wow, you did your magic. We're number one! (he also mentioned that they've been seeing steady traffic and at the end of week two had made a large dent in their inventory).
Not only are they easily found for their own name, "sutter meats," but if you're in the Northampton area (and greater surrounding area) and do a search from your phone for "butcher" or "meat," Sutter Meats will be the first search result that you find. It will also show you their store hours, a click-to-call link, a click-for-directions link, and more. All before you even click to visit their website. Google My Business provides some major advantages if you set them up properly.
How to best take advantage of the web changes with time. Understanding your target audience, how people are looking for you, how people are finding you, and perhaps how people aren't finding you... Those are some of the most important aspects of your web strategy.
For this example we've selected one business, a client of ours that is a 1-location popular restaurant in a major city. For clarity, "clicks" in this graph represents: "Clicks to your website: Number of clicks to your business’s website from local search results in Google Maps, Search, and Maps for Mobile." That leaves a lot of possibility for variance as there are so many facets to Google Search and where your information is displayed, but unfortunately that's the definition we're provided with.
This business is NOT active in Google+ beyond having a Google My Business page created, and some basic auto-posting from their blog. They have less than 100 followers and almost 0 engagement on their posts. They are clearly not using it to be “social."
Over a 30-day period, the business's information from Google My Business was displayed:
From that information, it had actions of:
This has a click through rate (CTR) of 21.6%.
Over the same 30-day period of time:
Google Local Search clicks to the website were responsible for 52% of all of the Google Search traffic to the website, and 31% of the total traffic to the website.
If we sum the driving instructions and phone calls as "goal conversions" (as those for a restaurant generally imply a firm movement toward a sale), this is an equivalent of an 8.5% bonus to the goal conversions of the website, as their goals have been fulfilled before the user even visits the site.
Looking at the differences between the Google Webmaster Tools data of impressions (23,463) compared to the Google My Business search views (43,217), we can deduce that the Local Search displays are providing an additional 184% bonus search exposure to the business beyond the standard Google Web Search.*
(* this is either an 84% bonus or 184% bonus, depending on whether GMB search views include regular search or not, but their description would seem to indicate that it does not, hence 184%)
Google My Business needs to be a prominent piece of every local restaurant marketing strategy and search strategy. While this study is for one business in particular, from the data that we have observed for other local businesses, this is fairly indicative of the results that we've seen, especially for restaurant establishments. Integrating data like this for marketing is a possibility in modern restaurant tech stacks.
As the local search market grows, local businesses need to maintain a valid presence within local search results through online marketing efforts and ideally integrate with an online ordering for restaurants, and this is where your Google My Business listing comes into play.